And how are the children? A true story.

The teenage girl first eyed the man through the concession window. He lifted the garbage can lid then set it back. He looked familiar to The Girl. Loaves and Fishes, she thought. The one who vacuumed the floor at the end of the night. Wore a green fedora hat.

His red bike overflowing with garbage, junk, and plastic bottles leaned against a column.

The Girl turned to her friend the Nordic Skier and whispered urgently, “He’s trying to get garbage.” Nordic Skier barely shrugged her shoulders. The Girl said with more emphasis, “Looking for food.”

Nordic Skier yawned. I’m not here for it, her tired posture messaged.

The man was grandpa-old. Wore a plaid long sleeve shirt, long jeans though it was a warm summer afternoon.

The Girl got busy with customers. She and her two friends worked at the refreshment stand. Ice cream, pizza, coffee and soda. Not much, really. Nothing you could find in the garbage except maybe pizza crust.

A chair scraped the floor, and the Nordic Skier was suddenly next to The Girl at the sink. Nordic Skier turned her body away, covered her mouth. “He’s drinking out of the containers.”

Finding no garbage outside, the man had moved inside to the garbage can in the corner. He had found melted ice cream in throwaway cups and bowls.

The Girl’s sigh was audible through the black face mask she wore. Her eyes threw serious shade. Like you woke now? She gazed over her friend’s shoulder to the seating area. The man was lifting a Styrofoam bowl and letting liquid drip into his mouth. “Oh my gosh, go offer him something.”

Nordic Skier’s eyebrows raised. “I’m the one that told you. Beside you’re the one that wants to help people.” She furrowed her brows. “That’s your career, periodt.”

They both turned to their other friend who was standing near the ice-cream display freezer. She was the smallest, youngest, and quietest of the three of them. A Cross Country runner. Not the fastest. Not the slowest. Observant. Steady. Strong. Formidable.

“You go,” said The Girl.

Their very quiet friend, responded, “I fully support your idea, but I’m not going to do it.”

The Girl barked at her.

The diminutive friend growled back.

“Fine!” The Girl dried her hands.

The man walked towards the door. The Girl followed him. “Sir, sir.”

He kept walking. Big Yikes. The Girl didn’t want the family who just came into the seating area to observe her struggling to talk to the man. She turned back to the refreshment stand. Nordic Skier was making a violent slashing motion across her neck and pointing forcefully to the man.

The family moved to the concession window away from The Girl.

The Girl steeled herself. “Sir, sir. Would you like us to give you some food?”

The man stopped and leaned his ear towards the girl, tapping his ear.

“Would you like some free ice-cream?”

He placed his palms in prayer.

The Girl dished out a scoop of rumba cherry because old people like rumba cherry, and a scoop of chocolate because everyone likes chocolate, and finally a scoop of rich and famous, cause, yeah, why not?

He sat down at a table. The Girl brought him his ice-cream. He bowed in prayer.

Nordic Skier said, “Oh my gosh. I’ve got the other half of the pizza I haven’t eaten.” Then she thought of the ten-dollar bill that she had found on the floor a few hours earlier. Serendipitous, for sure. She taped the ten-dollar bill to the pizza box.

While the man was eating, The Girl took a KIND bar that Nordic Skier had taken from her backpack and tossed away because the unopened wrapper had gooey stuff on it. “What are you doing? People need this. They are starving. Right here in our own town.” Nordic Skier and The Girl gave the man the KIND bar.

The man bowed in thanks.

A couple of days later, The Girl saw the man. He was waiting at the door. The Girl was tending to customers and couldn’t approach him.

The man came to the window. “She’s paying for me,” he said softly. He nodded to a woman. The woman shook her head in agreement.

“Three scoops,” the man said.

“The Usual?” The Girl asked.

He smiled.

Periodt.

 

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About Elizabeth di Grazia

An artist, I follow the nudge inside of me. This nudge led me to write Peace Corps stories, find the front door to the Loft, and to graduate from Hamline’s MFA program. The story that became my thesis for Hamline is woven into my book manuscript: HOUSE OF FIRE: From the Ashes, A Family, a memoir of healing and redemption. It’s a story about family. And a story about love–for my partner Jody and the son and daughter we adopted from Guatemala. Most days, I can be found working as a Human Resource Manager for a foundry in Minneapolis. When I am not at the foundry I may be volunteering as a Police Reserve Officer for Richfield, MN or kicking butt at Kor Am Tae Kwon Do.

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